Eats, chews and leaves: The Monkey Tree

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Scene. A large pub outfitted in dark wood with an expansive bar and plenty of sports posters, filled to capacity with jolly, well-fed patrons. Trays of pints rush past while classic rock thumps loudly — it’s musical bingo night. The bingo halts and all the patrons crowd around the bar to see a birthday girl take a muff diver off her partner’s lap. Laughter erupts. The birthday girl is well into her 70s, and her husband is even older.
This is a typical night at the Monkey Tree Pub.

I describe the Monkey Tree as “small town-y.” While my television-loving roommate was reminded of the bar in How I Met Your Mother, another friend explained the Monkey Tree best when she said, “This place smells like my childhood!”

She assures me she didn’t grow up in a bar; the smell of the place reminded her of family barbeques. This is an adequate description of the neighbourhood pub. Our group was the odd one out: first-time customers amidst true regulars.

Service teeter-tottered throughout the night, and although our server was friendly and offered menu recommendations, ordering and refilling drinks took a fair amount of time.

The Monkey Tree’s portions are large and filling. Five at our table shared greechos ($14.95), a Greek take on nachos. Fresh pita chips are fried and then baked with feta cheese, olives, pepper, tomato and onion, while tzatziki takes the place of salsa. I’d definitely order them again.

Two of my friends split a vegetarian pizza ($14.95) topped with pesto, arugula, mushrooms, feta and sun-dried tomatoes. They finished off the entire pie, only briefly lamenting that it needed more pesto. For those with dietary restrictions, the crusts are also available gluten-free.

There are plenty of burgers to choose from. The Western burger ($12.95) is dressed with chipotle barbeque sauce, mozzarella cheese and crispy onions, and while my friend thoroughly enjoyed the burger, the lacklustre fries remained on her plate. She didn’t feel bad about leaving them.

I ordered a chicken burger on special ($13.95) topped with house-made guacamole and served with hand-breaded panko black pepper onion rings. The chicken stayed moist throughout and the onion rings, while slightly over-breaded, were plentiful and shared among the table.

If you’re going to the Monkey Tree on a Saturday, I’d suggest arriving by 5:30 p.m. at the latest. Musical bingo starts at 7 p.m., but the pub fills up much earlier.

If you’re under the age of 40, I’d also suggest raiding your parents’ or grandparents’ record cabinets, as the tunes are old and prompt many sing-alongs.

After all, it’s not a proper pub until they play Johnny Cash.

The Monkey Tree Pub: 3/5 stars

4025 Borden Street

Sun–Thu 11–12 a.m.

Fri–Sat 11–1 a.m.

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